Insanely Organized? These 8 Websites Will Help You Find Flexible Work as a Virtual Assistant
Want to put your organization and communication skills to work from the comfort of your own home? Good news: busy professionals need your help -- and are willing to pay for it.
As a virtual assistant (VA), you could make a successful career out of helping people and businesses with data entry, social media management, website maintenance, research, customer service and more. One day, you might be helping a small business set up their social media accounts; the next, you could be researching travel destinations.
Full-time VA and owner of TheOnlineVirtualAssistant.com, Nica Mandigma, says she’s seen opportunities for VAs grow over the past six years. "I get inquiries now more than ever. And I do not see the demand abating anytime soon,” she explains. “VAs will be in demand as long as people look for more ways to balance their work and personal lives."
How to Find Work as a VA
The most important step to finding work as a freelance virtual assistant probably won’t surprise you: networking.
"I always recommend telling people you're a VA -- especially at networking events," says part-time VA Tatiana Christian. "[Try] joining an entrepreneurial community… and the obvious: setting up a blog where you talk about being a VA."
Mandigma agrees, adding, "Make sure you have good presence on social media. I found my ideal clients through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. It also pays to read and comment on blogs about virtual assistants and outsourcing because many people who read those posts are the ones that need virtual assistants."
In other words, the skills you need to obtain work as a VA are the same ones you need to perform the job: organization and great communication.
Where to Find Work as a VA
Want to try your hand at working as a VA? Here are eight of the most popular websites for finding clients:
These companies have always been similar, and they merged in late 2013. On each site, prospective clients post their needs and then sit back while hungry freelancers "bid" on a chance to work for them.
While this strategy may work well for certain professions, Tatiana Christian suggests that VAs use caution, stating, "I hate bidding sites. People only use those sites to get really good help for very little money." Mandigma agrees, saying, "I still have a profile [on oDesk] but do not use it at all because bidding for jobs takes a lot of time. I would rather focus on marketing myself through my blog and social media."
TaskRabbit specializes in connecting people locally; however, they're now offering limited "remote" work, much of which is perfect for a VA.
If you're over 21 and live in a city mentioned in TaskRabbit's directory, apply to research, vacation-planning and usability-testing jobs.
While Craigslist doesn't offer any safety net services (such as Elance's escrow service) to protect freelance VAs from payment risks, it remains one of the most convenient, easy-to-use, sites to look for work. Mandigma names it as one of her personal favorites, but adds, "Just beware of scams!"
VANetworking.com is a social network and forum for VAs founded by a VA. About half the posts are from VAs swapping tips, and the other half are from potential customers sharing jobs.
Also recommended by Mandigma, WAHM.com provides a job board for remote workers. And although "WAHM" stands for Work At Home Moms, they cater to everyone, regardless of gender or whether you have kids.
PPH is well-recognized as one of the most reputable job sites for freelancers. Simply name your services, set your hourly rate and wait for customers to come to you. Or, you can search for clients who need your services and submit an (hourly) proposal.
The youngest site on this list, Zirtual used to be "invitation only" for both clients and VAs, but as of January, they've opened their virtual doors to the public.
Zirtual works as an agency for VAs, assigning them to clients. They pay a minimum of $10 an hour for part-time work; however, they only accept applications from United States residents.
Recommended by Entrepreneur's Lisa Druxman, HireMyMom caters only to work-at-home mothers. Mandigma added that, although she's heard nothing but good things about their services, "you need to pay if you want to become a member of HireMyMom. I was discouraged [from joining] because I didn’t have that kind of money when I was starting out six years ago." It’s the only paid site on this list.
Your Turn: Have you considered working as a VA? Which of these sites would you use?
Lauren Tharp is a freelance writer and the owner of LittleZotz Writing. Through her website, Lauren helps small businesses bring their brands to life through written content; and she also helps fellow writers get started as freelancers via weekly blog posts, bi-monthly newsletters, free e-books, and one-on-one mentoring.